I sometimes worry about getting jaded about Largo; this is not a place I want to take for granted. But if the breathless anticipation and incessant giggling bursting forth from Evonne and myself when we spotted David Rawlings wandering around before Saturday's Jon Brion show are any indication, we'll continue to line up as needed for a while to come.
Jon Brion, Largo, September 8, 2007: The Foghat jacket was history, but remnants of Friday night lingered. Namely, after Jon's usual instrumental opening, he immediately asked for requests. A voice I knew (thanks, T!) was the first out of the gate with a suggestion I've wanted to hear forever: Teenage Fanclub. Even better, Jon obliged with a mournful version of "Alcoholiday" drenched in harmonica and celeste. Though he couldn't remember most of the lyrics, he hit the important ones ("Baby, I've been fucked already") and, in the process, gave me that fuzzy feeling you get when you find out an artist you really like really likes another artist you really like.
After "I Believe She's Lying," the request for "She May Call You Up Tonight" took Jon to the drums for a song build, which at the very least promised us the rawk would be brought, no "Croatia" request necessary. But only the electric guitar remained for the next couple of tunes, including a Les Paul-style treatment of "Sexy Sadie." Jon returned to the piano and familiar territory for the maudlin "Trial and Error," trailed by an exuberant "I'm on a Roll with You."
At the back, I couldn't hear the requests so well, but we got a hint of the next selection from Jon's repetition of a certain beat on the piano keys. I didn't want to believe my ears at first, even after Jon shifted to the drums to bang out that familiar rhythm, but it could be only one song. Jon dove head first into "Once in a Lifetime," sprinkling some of David Byrne's gesticulations from the music video into his performance, as playing allowed. As if that wasn't enough, he picked up an acoustic guitar for the outro and went Dylan on us ("This is not your beautiful home!"). It was only natural, then, that he'd segue into his own sometime Dylan tribute, "Knock Yourself Out."
Jon provided the next request, "Everytime We Say Goodbye," working up a lengthy, esoteric instrumental build before the vocals kicked in. But this classical turn evaporated in a medley of children's favorites, concluding with a heavy, distorted take on Kermit the Frog's most famous tune.
The Billy Joel requests had started early in the night, but now they drew to their climax, with one guy in the back yelling out for "any Billy Joel you can play." I guess this was the phrasing that finally got under Jon's skin because he declared it was "time to shut you down" and set out to get the last laugh. To Jon's credit, I can safely say that he spared us some of his Billy Joel repertoire (I've heard him do "Piano Man" before), so we were shown a modicum of mercy that night. In addition, Jon bestowed one more item upon the requester: a flip of the bird.
The medley unleashed a run through some cheesy but irresistible singalongs, including "Eye of the Fucking Tiger," as dictated by Jon; my own request for "Heart of Glass," for which we shamefully forgot about 90 percent of the lyrics; and "Hava Nagilah." For the last, Jon even donned the Viking helmet for the first time ever and stroked the pelt atop the piano a little, much to the audience's delight.
"Ain't Misbehavin'" took on an old-timey feel, thanks to Scott in the soundbooth and the layer of static he added over Jon's playing. "Pulling Mussels from the Shell" also tipped its hat to past masters, but that was mostly Jon's doing, with some help from audience call-outs.
The requests weren't quite hitting the spot for Jon, so it was Scott back to the rescue, piping in Larry Craig's testimony once again, then dropping some Snoop Dogg into the mix, to which Jon played along for a stretch. For the final number of the first set, Jon stood at the mic for a while, inviting our ideas, but ultimately holding out the threat of a "spacey cosmic downer." The jam won out, as Jon unleashed "You Made the Girl." I'm not a fan of this song, but it was hard not to feel his emotion as he threw his weight against the amp and the piano while forcing out every available note.
After a well-deserved break, Jon wasted no time in drafting a couple of friends: Benmont Tench and David Rawlings, one of my favorite recent additions to the Largo stable. Dylan provided the inaugural touchstone for, first, David on vocals by himself, then David and Jon together, sharing a microphone.
The trio happily made room for Sara and Sean Watkins, and at this point, Jon just about slid into the background. Sara assumed most of the vocal duties, though David took the reigns for "Queen Jane Approximately." David also eased over to the drums for "Any Old Time," but Evonne reports that when the spotlight landed on him, he shook his head and urged it away.
We had heard talk of Benmont's hidden talents, but we finally saw it for ourselves when, at an impasse, the group hit on a plan. We watched as Benmont stood up from the piano and slid on a bass guitar, while Jon landed on drums, and David stepped up on lead guitar. Sara and Benmont sang it, and we were all with them for the Jackson 5.
Benmont remained on bass for several numbers, including David's two Chuck Berry tunes. I loved David's semi-ironic vote of confidence before "30 Days," when he said somewhat under his breath, "This is going to be awesome," but you'd have to be a cold-hearted bastard to not join the rest of the room in yelling the chorus, even if (as in my case) you'd never heard the song before. Also, you could practically see the wheels turning in David's head as he tried to remember all the words to "No Money Down" but no matter--it was a hoot. And "John Wesley Harding" featured what might be one of my favorite Jon Brion virtuoso displays ever: a harmonica and tambourine solo, accomplished while clutching a pint of Guinness. Bravo! However, he took a more customary stance for the final number, "My Baby Left Me," before bidding us adieu.
--I Believe She's Lying
--She May Call You Up Tonight
--Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime
--Sexy Sadie [Les Paul style]
--Trial and Error
--I'm on a Roll with You
--Once in a Lifetime [+ Dylan mashup]
--Knock Yourself Out
--Everytime We Say Goodbye
--Sesame Street theme
--Mr. Rogers Neighborhood theme
--It's Not Easy Being Green
--It's Still Rock & Roll to Me/Only the Good Die Young/Just the Way You Are/She's Got a Way
--Eye of the Tiger
--Heart of Glass
--Pulling Mussels from the Shell [via Fats Waller]
--You Made the Girl
--Copper Kettle [vocals = David] *
--I'll Keep It with Mine [vocals = Jon + David] *
--Freight Train [vocals = Sara] **
--Queen Jane Approximately [vocals = David] **
--Any Old Time [vocals = Sara] **
--Hop High My Lulu Girl [vocals = Sara] **
--I Want You Back [vocals = Sarah + Benmont] **
--30 Days [vocals = David] **
--No Money Down [vocals = David] **
--John Wesley Harding [vocals = David] **
--Hey Mona/Not Fade Away [vocals = Benmont] **
--My Baby Left Me **
* = with David Rawlings and Benmont Tench
** = with David Rawlings, Benmont Tench, and Sara and Sean Watkins
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